Chivalry Is Dead and You Killed It, Ladies

Janelle Harris

ChivalrySitting in traffic sucks, but it’s the ultimate observation capsule for people-watching. Might as well scrutinize while you’re stuck between a ditzy chick in a monster SUV and a tourist trying to snap pictures of the White House from the driver’s seat.

It’s where I spied a young couple out on a date. He cracked a wry joke, she giggled daintily, and they held hands as they strolled up a block in the heart of downtown D.C. How in-the-honeymoon period adorable are they? I thought. But when Cute Couple paused to enter a restaurant, my foot almost slipped off the brake: he all but broke his neck to get in ahead of her and let the door slam—I mean, physically slonk her—on her shoulder.

I sent her a telepathic message to turn tail, hail a cab, and end that date immediately. But she didn’t. She grimaced and limped in after him. And that’s one of the reasons why chivalry is dying a slow, brutal death.

I’m not shy about telling y’all that I passionately believe manners are the glue of society, the thin line that keeps us all from going ape you-know-what on each other in social settings and public arenas. Not that that line isn’t fraying. If you’ve stood in line at Walmart for any length of time or taken a ride on public transportation, it’s like being on the frontlines of how dismally bad manners have really gotten.

For some reason — I don’t know if it’s global warming or residuals from the Bush administration or the pull of the moon or what it is — but people have absolutely abandoned good, sound, traditional act-rightness. And that lack of decorum has bungled the dating scene. Like it wasn’t already like walking through a dog park with no clean-up laws in the first place.

I’m as hip and trendy as the next fun-loving gal, but I’m super old-school when it comes to the application of manners. Feminist agenda be darned: I believe that men should walk on the side closest to the street when we’re out on the town, that they should pull out women’s chairs when we sit down at tables, and — for the love of all that’s even remotely cool — that they shouldn’t let the doggone door crush any part of our persons as they scurry in to slosh back their weight in nachos and beer at a local eatery.

I believe being a gentleman is still one of the sexiest qualities a guy can possess and because I don’t see it as often as I’d like, it makes the trait all the more valuable when I do. 

Watching that girl go into her hell date made me want to scream like a scary movie fan watching a character about to get gutted in a slasher flick. But it’s typical of ladies in this day and age to let that kind of madness slide. I guess the pool of eligible, compatible, marry-able guys has been slimmed so close to depletion that we’ve learned how to settle for not having the little niceties like being respected and even a little revered.

I mean, even if we’re not vying for a reception of royal proportions, the least us gals can demand is to be given the greenlight to go through a doorway first. But if we don’t insist on that kind of treatment, it’s not just going to magically manifest. We have to set the expectation early on that that’s how we want to be treated.

My boyfriend’s gentlemanliness is one of the things I adore about him and his cute self. In fact, it’s something that all of the few guys I’ve dated had in common (I’m more of a commitment girl, so I’ve only been on a handful of outings that would qualify as a casual date). And if I did so happen to be out with a dude who apparently didn’t know better, I’d stop at the restaurant door and wait. And wait. And wait some more until he got the drift. Same thing at the table pausing for a chair to be pulled out. Same thing at the car door.

In a way, it’s like doing my part to remind guys — or teach them if they never knew it in the first place (shame on their mamas, by the way) — that some women expect a higher standard of treatment. It’s not being bourgie or bitchy or snotty or snobby. It’s called being a lady.

Do you think chivalry is dead? Are you mourning the loss or does the lack of manners not bother you that much?

Image via L-plate big cheese/Flickr

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